Small- and medium-size enterprises in EU projects & Enterprise Europe Network — a best practice analysis
ANALYSIS Prepared by Analyst Thomas Trøster and Project Assistant Line Lage
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Contents Contents ......................................................................................................... 2 Foreword ........................................................................................................ 3 Recommendations .......................................................................................... 4 Summary ........................................................................................................ 5 Analysis and examples ................................................................................... 7 Denmark ......................................................................................................... 9 Central Denmark Region – iFacilitator ....................................................... 11 Region Zealand – The TIPS project........................................................... 13 Germany ....................................................................................................... 14 Hamburg / Schleswig-Holstein................................................................... 16 Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein .......................................................... 17 Nordrhein-Westfalen ................................................................................. 19 ZENIT Zentrum für Innovation und Technik – Nordrhein-Westfalen .......... 20 Switzerland ................................................................................................... 21 Euresearch ................................................................................................ 23 The Netherlands ........................................................................................... 24 Syntens ..................................................................................................... 26 Agentschap NL .......................................................................................... 27 Sweden ......................................................................................................... 28 Skåne - Invest in Skåne............................................................................. 30
Foreword The Centre for VĂŚkstAnalyse and Zealand Denmark EU Office have initiated this publication on SME participation in EU projects and the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). The publication is an analysis of best practice examples from both Danish and European regions. EEN is the European Commission's extended arm and an access point for SMEs to information and guidance on funding opportunities in the EU. There is a correlation between SME participation in EU projects and EEN. The analysis is based on interviews with project managers who work with SMEs and EEN, as well as studies of the networks' websites and publications and information received during the interviews. There are large national and regional differences in SME participation in European research, development, and innovation, along with the use of European development and funding opportunities. Some of these differences can be attributed to differences in the national and regional business support systems that bridge the gap between the small- and medium-size enterprises on the one hand and the EU system on the other. This analysis describes these support systems and how EEN has been implemented across a number of regions in Europe. The analysis shows that there are significant differences in how EEN is linked to the existing innovation and business support systems. The analysis is both one of EEN and one of the environment and context surrounding EEN. This context is an important part of understanding the EEN practice and subsequently a means of understanding the regional differences in SME participation in European research, development and innovation projects. The purpose of the publication is to provide inspiration on how EEN can be organized and how to ensure the best possible connection to the existing innovation and business support systems. Happy reading!
Recommendations 1. Closer to SMEs Organisations that are already in contact with a large number of SMEs generally have better access to recruit SMEs to the Enterprise Europe Network. It is therefore advantageous to place EEN with organisations that have contact with many small- and medium-size enterprisesâ€”organisations that are present locally and know the enterprises and their ability to participate in European projects and international cooperation. 2. Specialized and high-level counselling It is important that the SMEs receive high quality services. The counselling must be practical and useful, conducted by consultants with extensive knowledge of business development, innovation and European support programs. 3. EEN should be the initiator SME targeted services should be proactive and EEN should help finding the companies with the highest potential of benefitting from participation in European cooperation and innovation and research and development. Bluntly put, the EEN should come to the SMEs, and not wait for the SMEs to seek counselling from the network. 4. Establish a screening process for a targeted approach Not all companies are willing and able to participate in European partnerships and companiesâ€™ ideas for projects have different potential. Establishing a screening process can help identify the companies and projects with the greatest potential and offer those lengthier and more specialized services. This can help increase the success rate of companies and projects receiving EU funding, and ensuring optimal use of resources in EEN.
5. Synergy among regional national and EU programmes Synergies among regional, national and European programs can be realised by pooling the knowledge of the programs. It can be helpful to create a single point of entry where businesses are matched with the right support programmes. This ensures efficient use of resources and that SMEs are matched with the programs that best suit their specific circumstances. 6. Use organisations where they are best There are multiple examples of how the EEN tasks are shared by more than one organisation to make optimal use of competencies and resources within the system. This contributes to high quality and effect as organisations are used where they are best.
Summary No â€˜One size fits allâ€™ There are many different ways to solve the EEN task, and for many reasons. After all, the regions in Europe are different and there are big differences in how well developed regional and local innovation and business support systems are. There is not only one right way to organize and solve the EEN task. Our analysis suggests that there are some measures that across regions have proven effective when it comes to increasing SME participation in research, development and innovation projects and in promoting international cooperation with other European SMEs. Local presence Small and medium sized enterprises are not well acquainted with the EU, and often the little that they know they are very sceptical about. Therefore, many managers and owners are not prepared to invest a lot of time nor money if they are not convinced that it is a good idea for their business. It is an advantage when EEN is locally present in regions and municipalities with information and counselling on EEN and what the network can do for small- and medium- size enterprises. It is important that the EEN is proactive toward the enterprises and that it is the EEN that takes the initiative, not the other way around. Screening Not all enterprises are in scope for EEN counselling, especially when it comes to counselling on possibilities for funding innovation, research and development projects. It is desirable that EEN organisations have knowledge of SMEs and their prerequisites and possibility for participating and completing such projects. In many regions, enterprises are screened for their possible potential and benefit of EEN participation. The screening is carried out by stakeholders within the regional innovation and business support system who all contribute with knowledge of SMEs. This ensures that resources are targeted at the enterprises that have the greatest potential for getting projects approved and enterprises that will benefit most from participating. Information There is no single way to participate in an EU project. Sometimes, there is a long way from the point of receiving the information to the point of taking action, and sometimes the idea has to be carefully evaluated by the enterprise, or the timing may simply be off. This does not mean there are no possibilities. There are examples of enterprises returning several years after having received the initial information that want to participate in an EU project.
Counselling and specific services The general information on European opportunities should be followed be counselling and specific services to enterprises showing interest. For example, enterprises that would like to participate in an EU project could be offered services, such as courses in EU applications for beginners to help provide these companies with specific tools to work on their projects. Generally, it is important that enterprises experience services as tangible and as useful to their businesses. Small- and medium-size enterprises across the European regions find it difficult to formulate and write applications for EU projects. The multiple forms, requirements and documents may discourage many, and in addition, the process is time consuming, especially for small businesses. It is also a challenge that small businesses in particular do not have the skills to write effective applications. Enterprise Europe network cannot write the applications for the enterprises, but it is an advantage to have this service close by so that small- and mediumsize companies can be referred to someone who can help them along with their applications. There are primarily two models for this. One model is to connect companies with universities that lead as partners and are responsible for writing and submitting the application. The second model is to hire a private consultant who writes the application on behalf of the enterprise. In Sweden and Denmark, it is possible to apply â€˜pre-project fundsâ€™ that can be used to write the application either by the enterprise itself or by a private consultant. In other countries, it is typically left to private consultants to write applications, usually against a success fee and/or against an administrative role in the project subsequently. In this way, the risk is shared. An integral part of the existing systems Better access and contact to small- and medium-size enterprises and access to knowledge and skills are some of the benefits that can be achieved by allowing the EEN be an integral part of the existing innovation and business support system. This relationship is not clear-cut, and some networks have achieved good results despite their not being integrated into the existing innovation and business support systems. The important thing is that there is effective cooperation between organisations in the system. It is important to take regional and national differences in innovation and business support systems into account. It's not merely a matter of transferring one EEN model from one region to another.
Analysis and examples The Enterprise Europe Network is the European Commissionâ€™s network for information and counselling to small- and medium-size enterprises, research and educational institutions, and other organisations about opportunities for funding of research, development and innovation, financing, partnerships and internationalization, and on rules and regulations in the EU. The tasks handled by the EEN framework can be divided into three ideal types: Information
Information and guidance on subsidy schemes, information on foreign markets and opportunities, CE marking and EU tenders, and answers about EU rules and legislation Counselling, help and support to develop and qualify the innovation, research and development of projects, grants and subsidies to develop applications and support needed to seek financing in the EU Search of international partners, search of new technologies abroad, search of buyers of Danish companiesâ€™ technology and products and finding project partners for EU projects.
These three ideal types are developed based on studies from the networksâ€™ websites as along with interviews with experts from the networks and their description of the tasks they perform under EEN. The three types of tasks comprise most of the tasks that EEN organisations are undertaking across regional and national borders. There is a difference as to what extent they perform the various types of tasks and on what tasks they are focused. This will very much depend on how the network is organised. In Schleswig-Holstein, for example, the regional investment bank handles advice on funding opportunities and the application process, while it is the business and innovation support organisation that primarily takes care of the partnership task. The information task is handled by both organisations jointly. It is particularly the counselling that we in this analysis emphasize, as one of the main objectives of the analysis has been to find inspiration on how to increase Danish SME participation in EU projects.
The analysis is not only one of EEN, but also an analysis of how EEN is linked to the rest of innovation and business support systems and what tasks are also performed by the involved organisations. There are limits to how far the consultants in EEN can go in helping small- and medium-size enterprises. For example, the consultants cannot write applications to EU programs for businesses, at least not funded by the EEN. Such services can however be offered as part of a regional or nationally funded initiative or as a market-based service. Therefore, it is interesting not only to look at EEN but also to look at the context in which EEN is placed and how EEN interacts with other regional business and innovation organisations. In our analysis of Denmark, for example, we decided to make a relatively short study of the network itself and in turn focus on how SMEs receive advice and support to participate in European research, development, and innovation projects in Central Denmark Region and Region Zealand. Despite the EEN, the knowledge of the opportunities for funding research, development and innovation projects in the EU remains modest, and there are a number of entry barriers. For example, finding the right partners, meeting the formal requirements and rules, and writing an application that has a strong chance of obtaining funding are some important entry barriers.
Denmark In Denmark, there is only one Enterprise Europe Network consortium. This consortium consists of: • • • • •
North Denmark EU-office Erhvervsrådet Herning & Ikast-Brande Netmatch AluCluster Agro Business Park
The consortium comprises an innovation network, a science park, a business support organisation, an EU office, and an initiative established by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation linked to the Danish innovation networks. Agro Business Park is a science park and an entrepreneurial environment with a focus on agriculture, food, bioenergy and environmental technology. AluCluster is an innovation network. These five organisations that are responsible for EEN tasks across the regions in Denmark are quite different from one another. This also means that the way EEN is practiced varies considerably across regions. Mapping of EEN Denmark
In Region Zealand, there is no local partner organisation, whereas the network has a strong presence in the Central Denmark Region with Agro Business Park in Tjeleand Aarhus and Erhvervsr책det Herning &Ikast-Brande in Herning. There are some fairly large differences across the partner organisations that are part of the Danish consortium. This allows for local adaptation and adjustment, but there is a risk that the services to businesses are different across partner organisations. In some regions, the network is strongly present and well-functioning, and the network has a high yield. In other regions, the network is not present, and these regions have a significantly lower network yield. In the Danish case, it is particularly Region Zealand that, without a local partner organisation, has had a low network yield thus far.
Central Denmark Region – iFacilitator In the Central Denmark Region, an offer of support and funding for the preparation of project applications has been established side by side with the Enterprise Europe Network. Since 2009, iFacilitator has worked to encourage more small- and medium-size companies from the region to participate in European research, development and innovation projects. The EU system is alien to many SMEs. They do not know the possibilities and do not have time to familiarise themselves with the often very complicated set of rules. They don’t believe that their efforts will pay off, so why even try? This challenge has been addressed in the Central Denmark Region through the project iFacilitator, run by the region's EU Office in partnership with other regional business support organisations and the EEN. iFacilitator: Services to Enterprises • The regional and local organisations selects and screens local companies to participate in the calls for European innovation programs • The private consulting bureau Innovayt meets with potential enterprises validates the collected project ideas and offers support in the application process for the most promising projects. This support is typically financed through pre-project funds so that the company only has to fund its own labour costs.
The combination of Innovaytâ€™s specialised knowledge of European funding programs, its ability to sell funding opportunities to small- and medium-size enterprises and its ability to facilitate the application process has meant that the number of enterprises that seek and obtain funding has multiplied. The success rate is 37%, with 25 approved out of 68 submitted EU applications. For a small- or medium-size Danish enterprise, there may be a significant risk associated with spending time and money to develop an EU application. By reducing this risk through the use pre-project funds, Central Denmark Region has managed to encourage more enterprises to participate in European projects.
Region Zealand –The TIPS Project The TIPS project aims to increase the proportion of companies in Zealand participating in European projects. TIPS is short for ‘Tiltrække Innovative Projektertil Sjælland’, which in English means, ‘Attracting Innovative Projects to Zealand’. The project TIPS is managed by Innovayt and is administered by Region Zealand’s EU Office. The project is implemented in cooperation with Business Link Zealand, CAT Link and representatives from the local business support organisations that help identify small- and medium-size enterprises that have the capabilities and potential to participate in an EU project. By involving a broad range of regional business organisations, these organisations increase their knowledge of the possibilities for research, development and innovation in the EU. The project has been running since 2012 and was extended in 2013 under the name TIPS 2. In total, through TIPS 1 and 2, seven EU applications have been submitted, six of which have been evaluated, and five have received EU support. The total EU funding for the five projects is over 9 million EUR. This is the total funding for approved projects. The total direct funding for firms in the Zealand Region is 1.7 million EUR. The enterprises themselves and their international partners co-finance with an additional 3 million EUR. The project model in the TIPS project is extremely similar to the project model in iFacilitator, and in both cases, one of the drivers is Innovayt’s specialized knowledge of European funding programs and its ability to sell the funding opportunities to the small- and medium-size enterprises. To date, the project has shown that there are companies with potential and capabilities to participate in European research, development and innovation, but that the enterprises unfortunately do not apply by themselves. Therefore, it is necessary to facilitate the process and the possibilities to finance the preproject phase to make it more manageable for SMEs to use the EU programs for funding in research, development and innovation. With five approvals of 6 evaluated applications, the success rate is high, and the number of enterprises eligible for funding has multiplied.
Germany In Germany, there are several consortia under the Enterprise Europe Network. In this analysis, we have chosen to focus on two examples covering three German regions (LĂ¤nder). One consortium is the Enterprise Europe Network Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein. The consortium covers the regions of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, which together comprise 4.5 million inhabitants. The second consortium is the Enterprise Europe Network North RhineWestphalia. This consortium covers the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has 17.6 million inhabitants and is home to Germanyâ€™s industrial heart, the Ruhr area. Mapping of EEN Germany
We have chosen these two networks because Schleswig-Holstein has some of the same geographical characteristics as the Region Zealand has. Both regions are neighbouring regions to a major metropolis, which means that their economic development is closely linked to the development of the metropolitan region. In the case of North Rhine-Westphalia, it was through an interview with a Danish EEN partner who recommended that we look at the organisation ZENIT. Side 14
This, coupled with the discussion in Denmark as a country of production and the industry's future in Denmark, made us examine what we can learn from one of Europe's strongest industrial regions. The consortia consist of the following partner organisations: EEN Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein • TuTech Innovation • Hamburgische Investitionsund Förderbank • Investitionsbank SchleswigHolstein • Wirtschaftsförderung und Technologietransfer Schleswig-Holstein
EEN Nordrhein-Westfalen • ZENIT (Zentrum für Innovation und Technik in NRW) • NRW.BANKEU- und Außenwirtschaftsförderung
It is worth noting that both networks are a combination of organisations involved in innovation and business support and regional investment banks.
Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have formed a network across the two regions. The network has four partner organisations and is strongly present in both regions in Hamburg and Kiel. In each region, the network consists of a business support organisation, and/or innovation support organisation and a regional investment bank. Wirtschaftsfรถrderung and Technology Transfer Schleswig-Holstein (WTSH) is the regional business and innovation promotion agency. Its services range from advice and coaching to investment promotion to cooperation between science and business, to seed funding for innovative entrepreneurial environments and so on. TuTech was founded by the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH) and works with the transfer of scientific knowledge from universities to enterprises. TuTech works on a market basis and has 70 employees and an additional 265 project employees working on cooperative projects between TUHH and other German universities. The two banks are both regional investment banks. Regional investment banks are partners in both of the German EEN network we have included in this analysis. Their functions are to provide loans and support for entrepreneurs and small- and medium-size enterprises and to help finance large development projects and infrastructure investments in the municipalities. The four organisations are not identical, but both in Hamburg and SchleswigHolstein, there is a bank and a business and/or innovation support organisation. This means that there are a number of common features, and a number of the services they offer to small- and medium-size enterprises are the same. This helps ensure a consistent service across the two regions, although there are large differences between the state of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.
Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein Investitionsbank Schleswig-Holstein helps SMEs raise funds for its research, development and innovation. The bank is the regional investment bank, and it administers both regional and national business support and funding programs for small- and medium-size enterprises. Enterprises are guided through the jungle of German and European support programs in two steps:
1. At the first counselling session, the enterpriseâ€™s project idea is tested as its readiness to participate in an EU project is evaluated, too. Because the bank is also a provider of regional and national support programs, the enterprise is directed to the program that provides the optimal chance of a successful application. 2. If the enterprise and its project idea have good possibilities to receive a European grant, the enterprise receives a long-term counselling program so that the chances of obtaining support are maximised. The bank does not help the enterprise by writing the application, and it cannot subsidise the application writing. The bank will typically refer to a private consultant who enters into an agreement with the enterprise to write the application for either an administrative role in the project or a success fee.
Another model that is often used in Schleswig-Holstein is to get small- and medium-size enterprises involved in university projects and to then let the universities write and prepare the application, and in this way, make it easy for SMEs to participate. The network in Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein is closely connected to the universities and colleges in the regions and forms a meeting place between research and science on the one hand and small- and medium-size enterprises on the other. It is a challenge to get the stateâ€™s small and medium enterprises to participate in EU projects. The mere fact that the forms are in English can be a barrier. Itâ€™s an advantage that the access to regional, national, and European funding and support programs is located in a single point of entry. This means that enterprises can be matched with the programs that provide the best opportunities for grants and that different grant programs can be combined, thus ensuring synergy and a better return on investment.
Nordrhein-Westfalen In the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, there are two partner organisations that together form the region’s Enterprise Europe Network. The network consists of the region’s innovation support organisation Zenit and the regional investment bank NRW.BANK. Since 1984, Zenit has been the place where high-tech SMEs in particular can receive advice and support for innovation and internationalisation projects. On behalf of the EU, the German government and the state of North Rhine Westphalia Zenit supports the growth of SMEs through counselling and funding. NRW.BANK performs a number of tasks on behalf of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia and is a crucial part of the state’s efforts to foster regional economic development. Without distorting competition, the bank performs certain tasks in the development and promotion of investment from traditional loan products to specialised counselling services. The Bank offers loans and venture capital for start-ups and growth-oriented companies and works to support the growth of SMEs in North Rhine Westphalia. The network in North Rhine-Westphalia has many similarities to the network in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. In all three states, the network is composed of business and innovation support organisations and regional investment banks. The combination of counselling and funding options provided is beneficial and gives a greater impact than if the two services stood alone. The German organisation of EEN makes synergies among national, regional and European programs possible and helps improve resource efficiency.
ZENIT Zentrum fĂźr Innovation und Technik â€“ Nordrhein-Westfalen ZENIT helps SMEs with applications for research, development and innovation projects. Zenit supports the SMEs both in the initial phase when the project idea is formulated and in the search of international partners and also when the application must be prepared. ZENIT offers feedback on the application so that the application has the greatest likelihood of approval. Zenit is also the National Contact Point (NCP) for several EU programs and thus has expertise on funding and the evaluation criteria for these EU programs. This expert knowledge is available for enterprises when they receive counselling from Zenit. Zenit does not write applications for enterprises and primarily focuses on the tasks related to international and technological cooperation between companies from NRW and the rest of Europe. Zenit helps companies with international and technology cooperation. Enterprises are assisted in their search of international partners and are given help with creating profiles and connecting with others in the EEN network that can provide companies with the best support. In both North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein, the tasks in EEN are shared among different organisations that contribute with different core competencies. The organisations that already offer guidance on export and international cooperation for small- and medium-size enterprises also offer guidance on opportunities in Europe through EEN. This makes sense and avoids the building of parallel expert systems. Another advantage of this division of tasks is the specialisation that results in a high level of professionalism in the services for small- and medium-size enterprises.
Switzerland In Switzerland, the European Enterprise Network is performed by the organisation Euresearch. Euresearch is an organisation under the Staatssekretariat fĂźr Bildung, Forschung und Innovation. Euresearch is closely integrated with the academic world and has its head office in the capital Bern. The organisation has regional offices in all the universities in Switzerlandâ€”in total, there are 10 regional offices. This gives it both good geographical coverage and excellent access to the research environments. Mapping of EEN Switzerland
Euresearch was founded as Switzerland under the EU's 6th Research Framework Program chose to step into the framework on equal terms as had the EU countries. Until then, the Swiss researchers in the European research projects were 100 percent Swiss funded and lacked the opportunity to be the coordinator of projects. The background for establishing Euresearch was that with the 6th Framework, Swiss funds were pooled together with EU funds. Therefore, there was a need to ensure that Swiss researchers at a minimum took home the Swiss funds. Swiss researchers have ever since then been successful in taking home the Swiss funds. By collecting all National Contact Points in Euresearch in the same place and organisation, the organisation has built considerable expertise, and this expertise has benefited the Swiss researchers.
As EEN was established in Switzerland, it was natural to place this task at Euresearch so that the expertise that was built could also benefit small- and medium-size enterprises. Although the Swiss model at first seems to provide optimal opportunities for synergies by combining innovation and business support and letting both pull in the same direction, it has proven difficult to get this to work in practice. Euresearch is primarily a university organisation and does not have many contacts with SMEs; this has had to be built with EEN. The advantage of the Swiss model is the strong regional presence and the close contacts with the universities. This has been used as a stepping stone to coupling research at universities with innovation activities in small- and medium-size enterprises and funding from the EU. In addition, the model is at the same time, centralised and decentralised. At the head office in Bern, all national contact points are located, and expert knowledge is in this way systematically spread out to the regional offices that carry out the more specific tasks, such as guidance and counselling for researchers and enterprises. This avoids building parallel expert systems for business and innovation support.
Euresearch At Euresearch, enterprises and researchers have access to expert knowledge of European funding opportunities as well as counselling and guidance on the application process. It has not been without challenges to move from focusing only on universities and researchers to also focusing on small- and medium-size enterprises. This is a country that is not even a member of the EU. Moreover, the idea that the EU can help it is even more alien to the small and medium-sized enterprises there. Generally, Euresearch tries to unite the research and business worlds. While this is not without difficulty, the combination of the two makes it possible for synergies such as networking between research institutions and the SMEs to evolve. Euresearch works to differentiate its events so that the events become specialized and targeted at specific audiences. Euresearch is locally present both in the form of events spread across the regions and with methods such as webinars in which researchers and enterprises that cannot participate in a given event can see the event as a webinar. 1 When SMEs turn to Euresearch, and just as in the other countries in this analysis, this doesnâ€™t happen automatically, there is an initial clarification over the phone to verify whether the request is serious and whether the company has potential. If this is the case, the SME is offered an extended session in which Euresearch helps find the right partner and the right program and comments on the application so that the chances of approval are maximized. Euresearch cannot help SMEs write applications. As in Germany and the Netherlands, there is a private consultant market in which private consultants help SMEs write successful applications. Overall, the support given in the process of applying for funding resembles that found in the German model, where SMEs are connected with a university so that their workload is reduced. Alternatively, the SMEs ally with a private consultant who then prepares the application against a role in the project afterward or a success fee.
The Netherlands In the Netherlands, the EEN tasks are performed by the two organisations Syntens and Agentschap NL. These organisations operate independently of each other; however, both are funded by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. A key feature of the implementation of the EEN in the Netherlands is the fact that the network is part of two large existing national organisations. The distribution of tasks represents the core competencies of each organisation; this ensures an efficient use of competencies and creation of synergies among regional-, national- and EU-wide programs. Mapping EEN Netherland (yellow = Syntens, Red = Agentschap NL)
Syntens assists small and medium enterprises in areas regarding innovation, development of networks and technological knowledge transfer. The activities in Agentschap NL centres around information about EU funding and European legislation as well as counselling and guidance on participation in research or innovation programs in EU. Both Syntens and Agentschap NL emphasise that without the EEN, the European dimension of their services would not be at the high level it is today, as they themselves do not have the resources to manage this service to the same extent. However, both organisations point out that most Dutch enterprises have limited knowledge of the EEN. This might be because the enterprises consider the EEN as an integrated part of the two organisations: both on the regional level through Syntens and on a more national level though Agentschap NL. This might be one of the reasons for the success of the EEN in the Netherlands, as it is evidence of the EEN being deeply implemented and working as a natural part of the established system to promote innovation and business development in the Netherlands. The combination of a strong regional presence and a sector-specific knowledge means that the network can recruit enterprises across the entire country while maintaining the same level of quality in the services it provides to the enterprises. The strong regional awareness and the sector-specific knowledge make it possible for the EEN to reach a larger and broader level of enterprises. This would be difficult if the network were not implemented in an already existing business and innovation structure.
Syntens Syntens is an innovation network for small and medium enterprises. The network has been around since 1998 and is a non-profit organisation, which is funded in part by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and partly by a user fee. In this regard, Syntens is very similar to the innovation networks and the GTSs in Denmark. Syntens has over 300 employees in 14 offices spread across the Netherlands. In Syntens, 16 part-time consultants work with EEN tasks. The rest of the time, they work with other tasks within Syntens, not related to the EEN. The services Syntens offers in relation to the EEN are primarily centred around European technological knowledge transfer as well as the development of European innovation and networks. Outside of the EEN, Syntens provides the same services on a national level. Syntens also has a strong focus on innovation as a business model, as its services are very strategically grounded. Syntens works in close collaboration with universities and trade associations. The organisation does not provide guidance on EU funding opportunities and legislation. Neither does it prepare applications for EU funding programs or fund pilot projects. As Syntens existed 10 years prior to the EEN and is spread widely across the country, the organisation has a large network as well as sector- and localspecific knowledge. According to Syntens, it is not a challenge to get enterprises involved in the EEN. This could be due to the use of a systematic screening process. Syntens only works with companies that have at least 10 employees, of which at least two must be highly educated. Likewise, the company must have actual innovative activities, meaning it must not only trade or distribute innovative productsâ€” there must be genuine innovation production. This ensures a high success rate for the companies participating in the EEN. Syntens stresses that the most crucial to get small and medium enterprises interested in the EEN is the quality of the individual consultantsâ€™ work. Services must be specialized, at a high professional level and very practically oriented. At the same time, the consultants must have knowledge- and understanding of the local businesses. What has been especially effective in Syntens is the consistency between EEN activities and the other activities within Syntens. This creates synergy and ensures that resources are pooled together to create the biggest return. Having a shared competence between Syntens and AgentschapNL ensures that the core competencies of Syntens are used in the most efficient way.
Agentschap NL Agentschap NL is an agency of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Agentschap NL was established on 1 January 2010 through a merger of three agencies in the former Ministry of Economic Affairs: EVD, The Netherlands Patent Office and SenterNovem. Agenschap NL is a large organisation with approximately 1,500 employees. Agentschap NL has four offices in the Netherlands and is therefore not as regionally represented as is Syntens. The Headquarters are situated in the Hague. As opposed to Syntens, the EEN consultants within Agentschap NL work full time on EEN-related tasks. Agentschap NL performs various tasks for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and other ministries such as agriculture and innovation. These activities are organised into five thematic divisions: • NL Energy and Climate • NL EVD International • NL Innovation • NL Environment • NL Patent Office Agentschap NL provides small and medium enterprises with information and advice on EU funding and legislation in situations where the SMEs wish to attend a European research, development or innovation project. Agentschap NL does not write the applications for EU-funded programs, nor does it provide funding for pilot projects. This task is usually placed within private consulting agencies that typically are paid through a success fee. However, Agentschap NL provides coaching and counselling throughout the application process, including and pointing out any shortcomings and weaknesses. This maximises the chances for a successful application. Agentschap NL screens and assesses companies’ project ideas and offers advice to potential partners and provides feedback on project ideas. Agentschap NL also offers businesses assistance in finding and screening for partners, both in regard to internationalization and technological knowledge transfer. Agentschap NL has many similarities to the Danish Business Authority. The advantage of having the EEN closely linked to this type of organisation is the knowledge transfer from enterprises to the political system. Thus, business and innovation policies are designed to support the objectives of the EEN. Likewise, it creates good conditions to ensure synergies among regional, national and European initiatives. Side 27
Sweden Tillvaxtverket is the national coordinator of the EEN in Sweden. The Swedish consortium consists of 15 national and regional organisations, including universities, research institutions, innovation and business support organisations. Tillvaxtverket Acreo AB Stiftelsen Teknikdalen Swerea/SWECAST Almi Företagspartner Kronoberg AB Almi Företagspartner Mitt AB (Jämtland/Västernorrland) Almi Företagspartner Mälardalen AB Business Region Göteborg AB
AB Centek Stiftelsen Europa Institutet Invest in Skåne AB Swerea IVF Läns Tekniskt Centrum Kramfors LTCK SIK Institutet För Livsmedeloch Bioteknik AB Uminova Innovation AB
In this analysis, the focus is on the Skåne region. This is due to the similarities the Region has with the Zealand Region, as both are neighbouring regions to Copenhagen. In Sweden, as well as in the Danish consortium, there are many differences across the various regions regarding which organisations are entrusted the EEN task. This results in different approaches to resolving the EEN tasks. In Sweden, the EEN is represented with at least one full-time employee in all regions. This results in an uneven distribution of resources in relation to population, as there should be more EEN employees in the large cities where there are the most businesses and people. This use of resources, on the other hand, ensures that the EEN is spread throughout Sweden and that small- and medium-size enterprises located in the sparsely populated parts of Sweden also have the opportunity to receive support and engage in European cooperation. The consultants’ local knowledge of the small and medium enterprises and their network in the regions is a distinct advantage for involving enterprises in the EEN. To ensure a consistent quality in the work of the EEN consultants’, all consultants use EEN management tools. In addition, the EEN on a yearly basis organises a workshop to develop the competencies of the consultants. EEN Sweden requires that all consultants have a basic tool kit available in relation to EU information, counselling, networking and partnership formation. Some partner organisations within the Swedish EEN believe that this should go even further, as there should be a certification process for EEN consultants.
Map of the EEN in Sweden
Skåne–Invest in Skåne Invest in Skåne has been around since 2008 and started six months before the EEN was introduced in Sweden in 2009. The organisation has 20 employees in total, of which approximately three work full time with EEN-related tasks. Invest in Skåne is the official regional business promotion agency for Skåne. The role of Invest in Skåne is to promote business development and internationalisation of small- and medium-size companies within the region as well as to attract foreign investments to Skåne. EEN-related tasks are primarily centred on partnership searches, technology transfer and internationalisation. The organisation only informs and advises on EU funding opportunities and legislation on a general level and has no explicit expertise in the area. Invest in Skåne refers enterprises to other expert organisations on EU funding and legislation, such as the governmental organisation VINNOVA that is similar to the Euro Centre in Denmark. Within Vinnova, enterprises can get information and advice on writing EU applications for specific calls. In Sweden, it is possible to achieve pre-funding of applications for EU support programs. For example, companies in FP7 can apply for a ‘levelling contribution’ through the Swedish Energy Authority (Energimyndigheten) for up to 50,000 SEK, exceptionally up to 75,000 SEK if you are a coordinator of the project. Similarly, companies can seek pre-funding to develop an application and find partners for a FP7 project through VINNOVA. Here, a maximum of 60% of eligible costs are covered, which must not total more than 150,000 SEK, with the possibility to get 25,000 extra when the negotiation phase begins. Thus, in Sweden as well as Denmark, it is possible to receive national funding for EU pilot projects. In Invest in Skåne, there is a high correlation between the organisation's work with business development and internationalisation of small- and medium-size enterprises and the work within the EEN. The consultants’ knowledge and understanding of local companies on the one hand and knowledge of opportunities in the EU on the other hand mean that a large number of companies are possible participants in EU projects. Invest in Skåne does not experience difficulties in attracting small- and medium-size enterprises to EEN. It is primarily through existing business networking structures, the consultant’s own network, and direct contact with small- and medium-size enterprises that enterprises are recruited to the EEN.
Published on Feb 7, 2014
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